Last Friday I was a guest on the latest Infosmack podcast, with special guest Chad Sakac. One of the topics was Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager 2.0 (initially in beta). You can read more details in the press release, however in a nutshell, UIM is all about providing unified orchestration for deployment of virtualisation in a Vblock architecture.
I asked Chad the question – what happens if customers have heterogeneous environments? The answer from Chad was “Good luck to them” – a comment I take to mean – you’re on your own. Now Chad did and will point to the fact that there are vendors out there who provide 3rd party solutions equivalent to UIM in environments that are not pure VCE (VMware, Cisco, EMC), however is that a fair direction for EMC to take?
Personally, I feel that EMC are effectively telling customers that they adopt the Vblock model (and UIM), or they will be left out in the cold. It’s an example of further moves to lock end users into their proprietary stack of technology. However although Chad intimates that alternatives to UIM exist, unfortunately they will never be as good as UIM for one simple reason:
VMware, Cisco and EMC own and understand the APIs used to drive their products. They can (and I suspect probably do) retain certain documentation that enables them to have a competitive advantage over 3rd party vendors attempting to add equivalent functionality. In addition, they can also make microcode and software changes to those APIs to provide any feature that might be needed to make UIM a better product than their competitors. This ability always gives them the edge over any other vendor looking to offer similar functionality to UIM.
Of course, why shouldn’t EMC/VMware & Cisco do this? After all, they have the right to do anything with their products that they choose and far be it from me to tell any vendor what their product & marketing strategies should be. But it is worth looking back to the attempts by many companies to offer unified storage management tools; no hardware or software vendor has yet provided a single unified storage management tool that works across heterogeneous environments. Customers still retain multiple products for storage provisioning, in many cases continuing to make use of CLIs rather than graphical interfaces. So, the chances of there being a successful generic virtualisation orchestration product out there are slim to none.
So what is the solution? For EMC, their answer would be to take Vblock and UIM. But what happens if you take that route and build all your processes around UIM, then decide to change your storage vendor? At that point you have nowhere to go other than to re-engineer your entire orchestration process, creating a very high cost and barrier to change.
Here’s one other point to ponder; in February, EMC sold off a number of the Ionix tools to VMware. So if these products were intended to be part of vCenter, why is UIM coming from EMC? There’s one easy answer to this; if VMware sold the product, their other partners (like Netapp) could push for integration of their products into UIM. By selling UIM as an EMC tool, this support will never happen and so Netapp are forced to either write their own tools or partner with 3rd party vendors. In this way the VCE coalition can continue to control their market.
So do you think vendor lock-in is a good thing?